Truss has a hard time realizing that Britain is not America

Enter Bridal Head Revisited, near the middle, Evelyn Waugh prys open a scene on a cruise ship to mock Americans. There is a character called “Senator Stuyvesant-Oglander”. Every drink contains ice. No one can tell friendship from hopeless goodwill. Undoubtedly, the most die-hard of England’s greatest novelists wrote better, but this passage is an instructive fragment of a time when anti-Americanism was Tory.

and has its uses. If nothing else, the establishment of the United Kingdom was clear at the time, and the United States was a different country. A mid-sized archipelago cannot count on a resource-rich continental-sized market for government ideas.

If anti-Americanism is bad, see what its opposite does.UK is trouble Because its elites are so preoccupied with America that they confuse it with their own country. The UK does not issue a world reserve currency. It has no near-infinite demand for its sovereign debt. It can’t cut taxes on a hunch that future lawmakers will cut public spending, as US Republicans sometimes do. Reaganism is a good idea. Reaganism without the dollar, no.if UK Prime Minister Liz Truss However, there is one program, and that is its four-character expression.

A lot of what the UK has done and thought about in recent years makes sense if you assume it’s a country of 330 million people and $20 trillion in annual output. For example, it could see the idea of ​​the EU as an adversarial negotiator. Or the decision to become picky about Chinese foreign investment while abandoning the European market.Or bet Washington will entertain a meaningful Bilateral Trade Agreement. Superpowers will act on this assumption.

Why does the UK think it can too? No wonder Empire nostalgia. (If so, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal would show the same arrogance.) Blame the distorting effect of language. Because Britain’s ruling class can follow American politics as easily as themselves, they get lost in it. They avoided both countries. It doesn’t help that while the UK’s national population is one-fifth the size of the US, the British capital, where its elite live, is as big as any American city. You can see why the two countries seem comparable from a London perspective.

Reaganism without the dollar: This is not the arbitrary whim of one woman. It was the culmination of decades of (unrewarded) American attention Robert Caro’s obsession with Westminster. You would think from British public discourse that the Earth has two sovereign states. If the NHS is fairer than the US model of healthcare, it’s the best in the world.If Queen Elizabeth II is better than Donald Trump, monarchy trumps republicanism short. Those who can’t name cabinet members in Paris or Berlin (where from immigration flows to energy, where the impact on the UK so big has been settled) will be eyeing the US midterm elections in November. EU is one, Maybe, the world’s regulatory superpower. British politicians find Iowa more interesting.

The Left is as guilty as Truss. From 2010 to 2015, critics of “austerity” urged the Conservatives to take a more moderate American approach. The transatlantic comparison suggested that then-Prime Minister David Cameron had the dollar king. Soon after, identity politics was introduced from a republic with an entirely different racial history.

The anti-Americanism of the Waugh generation is willful. That’s the sour taste disguised as a high-grade usurper. But at least it doesn’t have any illusions. The snob understands that America is foreign and inimitable. The Conservatives who patronize America – Harold Macmillan, Ted Heath – see Britain as Europe more quickly than most in Labour.

Truss and her Conservative Party members don’t have that taunting, but end up keeping a healthy distance from America. Take her vaunted supply-side revolution. Like all the free marketers in the chair (she never started a business), she believes her country is deregulating and moving away from America’s entrepreneurial dynamism. It is not. Creators of successful products in Dallas can effortlessly expand into Los Angeles and Boston. The UK does not have a market of hundreds of millions of people. (it did, at one point, but the current chancellor voted to leave it. ) those who slip past this point are also likely to miss the contrasting appeal to gilt and Treasury investors.

Some readers hesitated last month When I wrote that the truss might not last until the next election. I didn’t even expect her to fall so quickly. Mistaking your country for a superpower, I think, is a form of patriotism.

janan.ganesh@ft.com

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